Between 1972 and 1992 Reinhart Koselleck, Otto Brunner, and Werner Conze published the famous seven volumes of Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur Politisch-Sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. The handbook was, in its day, a milestone for any historian interested in turning from the history of ideas to the history of semantics, of the verbal (and non-verbal) production of meaning. In his introduction, published in 1972, Reinhart Koselleck had directed the authors’ attention to the understanding that Historical Semantics stands and falls with defi ning corpora. In the pursuit of orientation about the quantity and dissemination of semantic figurations, but also of comparability of the articles’ findings, all authors were expected to use predefined text corpora. In conversations with his Bielefeld colleagues Koselleck often complained later that too many authors did not follow his rule and that too many of the handbook’s articles had just continued to work with approaches rooted in the history of ideas.
New Means and Approaches
Bernhard Jussen and Gregor Rohmann
A Study of Two Argumentative Tropes
of a scholarly article, I cannot cover all possible aspects of the historical semantics of plurality and pluralism . There is vast body of literature on this topic, to which I am indebted and which can be used for further explorations of some of the
The article deals with the semantic career of virtus as a political concept in the Middle Ages. It traces the different aspects of meaning assigned to this word in four medieval texts, namely St. Augustine's City of God, the Regula Pastoralis of Gregory the Great, the Via Regia of Smaragdus of St. Mihiel, and the Policraticus of John of Salisbury. Using quantitative methods, I analyze the employment of virtus with a focus on its relevance in the political discourse, and I also address the shift in meaning and argumentative capacity that the term undergoes over time. In the end, virtus can be shown to be a highly flexible yet strongly functional term that plays an important role in the conceptions of medieval societies.
Toward a Comparative Semantics of a Key Concept in Modern European History
Against the background of a new interest in empires past and present and an inflation of the concept in modern political language and beyond, the article first looks at the use of the concept as an analytical marker in historical and current interpretations of empires. With a focus on Western European cases, the concrete semantics of empire as a key concept in modern European history is analyzed, combining a reconstruction of some diachronic trends with synchronic differentiations.
What Does Word Use Contribute to the History of Concepts?
This article looks at the use of the word christianitas at the time of Innocent III (1198–1216 CE) to study how contemporary word use can contribute to the history of a concept. The papal register of letters shows that it is difficult to trace a consistent use of christianitas as a term for the concept of Christendom by Innocent III. In England, France, and Germany the word mainly designated the Christian religion, a personal virtue, or a restricted clerical unit, whereas the Armenians and others tried to invoke the idea of Christendom to rally support for their own political agenda. The constitutions of the IV Lateran Council, where Innocent III gathered ecclesiastical and secular princes from almost all Christian lands to impose his church reform, do not contain the word. It thus seems questionable if christianitas could be employed as the generally accepted term for designating a concept or an actually existing supranational unit.
Reflections on the Concept of Unnati (Progress) in Hindi (1870–1900)
This article analyzes the historical semantics of the concept of unnati in the nationalist discourse in Hindi between 1870 and 1900. The article first outlines the basic features of the Enlightenment concept of progress using Koselleck's analysis. It then goes on to discuss the place of the concept of progress in the colonial ideology of a “civilizing mission,“ and concludes by taking up the analysis of the usage of the term unnati in the nationalist discourse in North India.
The Sanctification and Democratisation of "the Nation" and "the People" in Late Eighteenth-Century Northwestern Europe
Proposing a Comparative Conceptual History
This paper suggests that the study of the modernisation of European political cultures in the eighteenth century would greatly benefit from a comparative conceptual historical approach. is approach would effect the reconstruction of a variety of meanings attached to chosen political concepts in different national contexts through the side-by-side analysis of primary sources originating from each case according to the methodology of both historical semantics and pragmatics. A promising research topic is the continuity and change in the conceptualisation of national community, national identity, popular sovereignty and democracy in various European political cultures. e conceptual analyses of late eighteenth-century political sermons from five northwestern European countries, conducted by the author, for example, reveal that conceptual changes related to the rise of nationalism took place even within public religion, allowing it to adapt itself to the age of nationalism. Further analysis of the secular debates taking place in representative bodies and public discourse in late eighteenth-century Britain, the Dutch Republic and Sweden elucidates the gradual development of the notion that all political power is ultimately derived from the people and that such a system constituted a "democracy" in a positive sense within different parliamentary traditions and perhaps even before the French Revolution.
Theo Jung, Cristian Roiban, Gregor Feindt, Alexandra Medzibrodszky, Henna-Riikka Pennanen, and Anna Björk
landscape in which they were erected. The authors approach their topics as archeologists, tracing the history of the major figures, currents, schools, institutions, and developments of the field of conceptual history and historical semantics. Yet at the same
A Struggle for Representation in the Discourse of the Polish Great Emigration, 1832–1846/48
. Step-by-step works on historical semantics touch on new contexts and regions beyond Western Europe, forcing one to reflect on both the creativity of historical actors as well as the contingency of contemporary political categories. At the same time, in
A Computational Model for History of Concepts
Peter De Bolla, Ewan Jones, Paul Nulty, Gabriel Recchia, and John Regan
descriptions of Koselleck's method in the same vein, see: “There is no doubt that for Koselleck, doing conceptual history entailed a word history, or rather a historical semantics, based on the study of language in the sources ( Quellensprache ).” Jan Ifversen